Let's be honest: When the time comes for John Cena to step away from active in-ring competition, WWE is probably going to find itself in a bit of bother.
Cena, who has been a cornerstone of the company for almost a decade now, is just that important.
The scary thing is that day may not be too long from now. The former WWE champion is 36 and has been racked with various injuries in recent years. (He's faced problems with his right elbow, in particular.)
But all hope is not lost.
Fortunately WWE has a roster packed full of talented wrestlers who could potentially step up and help lead Raw without Cena.
Looking at each performer's positive and negative attributes, here are the top-10 candidates to replace Cena at the top of the card.
Positives: Over the last two years, Sheamus has emerged as a superb worker, capable of having terrific matches with just about anyone. He truly is one of the company's best in-ring talents.
Negatives: Sheamus’ current babyface character is an unlikeable jerk that has no issue with bullying people smaller or weaker than him (Be a star, Sheamus!).
In fact, it’s amazing WWE even considers the Irish wrestler a good guy at this point because his on-screen character is a rather terrible person.
There’s also the fact that, despite a big push in 2012 and early 2013, he doesn’t appear to have taken off as a major star. One indication of this was when he was demoted to Payback’s pre-show last month.
Oh, and he is 35. So, he’s not really a young guy who will help shape WWE's future anymore.
Positives: Ryback emerged as one of the WWE's most popular acts in 2012. With his brutal-looking power moves and fun "Feed Me More" catchphrase, he wowed fans and viewers the world over.
Negatives: While he may have had a promising start, the former Nexus member's stock has plummeted over the past six months. Turning heel in his recent program with Cena didn't help him either. He's been losing left and right on TV and pay-per-view, and whatever momentum he once had appears to be long gone.
Positives: Punk is a great, versatile wrestler with a dedicated—and vocal—fanbase. He also remains one of the best talkers in the company, as his terrific verbal showdown with Paul Heyman on last Monday's Raw illustrated.
Negatives: In late 2012, when Cena was out due to his elbow surgery, then-WWE champion Punk did have the chance to replace him as the company’s top star and he wasn't really up to the challenge.
He tried, of course, but the ratings for his title reign weren’t very good, nor did he appear to have Cena’s ability to reach casual fans. One problem is that his character may simply be too "insider" for your average non-IWC wresting fan to truly understand.
Positives: With his intense charisma, superb promo skills and great wrestling ability, Ambrose is very much this generation’s Roddy Piper (he’s also frequently compared to Brian Pillman too). The 27-year-old has star power in spades. He could potentially step up to replace Cena as the company’s top star one day.
Negatives: Ambrose is still unproven as a singles competitor. It also remains to be seen whether he has any real mainstream appeal—a requirement for a top WWE guy these days.
Positives: During his time in The Shield, Reigns has emerged as one of the best big-man workers in the business. He also has a fair amount of physical presence and can cut decent promos, even if he can’t quite compare to Ambrose. Considering his size, it seems hard to believe Reigns won't get some sort of big-time singles push in WWE in the future.
Negatives: Similar to Ambrose, he’s still unproven in WWE. There’s a big difference between being one-third of a heel act and being a singles performer.
Positives: Thanks to his time on the Real World and burgeoning movie career with films like The Marine 3: Homefront and Christmas Bounty, Mike Mizanin is one of the few guys on the roster with any real mainstream appeal.
Negatives: WWE seems reluctant to push the former WWE champion back to the top of the card, and he’s been stuck feuding with Curtis Axel over the IC belt in recent times.
Positives: With new manager Paul Heyman by his side, the third generation has returned to prominence in WWE, holding defeats over the likes of Triple H and John Cena. In addition to this, he also won the IC championship at the Payback pay-per-view last month.
Negatives: Well, Axel’s wins over Triple H and Cena weren’t exactly credible. Nor is he as developed as a personality as you would expect him to be. It seems almost like Heyman is carrying the entire act.
Positives: Despite being under-utilized by the booking team and being around for well over a decade, Orton remains one of the most popular acts in the company. As his recent bouts with The Big Show and Daniel Bryan show, he hasn’t missed a step as a wrestler either. The 33-year-old can still deliver the best matches on the show.
Negatives: Orton has two drug failures under his belt, something that will make it very difficult for WWE to go all the way with him in the future (per the rules, he has to be fired if he fails one more time).
Positives: Lesnar is hugely popular with the fans as a scary, dominant monster heel. Thanks to his success in the UFC, he can also be a big part of WWE's efforts in trying to win back many young male fans who felt alienated by the company's PG direction and stopped watching.
Really, Lesnar is one of the few genuine stars Vince McMahon has left.
Negatives: Lesnar is only a part-time performer. He's not even really a regular on Raw, to be honest. Anyone who wants to take Cena’s place has to be willing to work 24/7 for the company.
Positives: Ziggler has just turned babyface, and seems to be taking off with the fans as the underdog challenger to Alberto Del Rio’s World Heavyweight Championship.
He also remains one of the best wrestlers in the company and is a far better talker than he’s usually given credit for. His marketable good looks and witty sense of humor also help his cause. If anyone can emerge as WWE's next breakthrough star, it's this guy.
Negatives: Ziggler has lost so much in recent times it may be difficult for him to regain his credibility in the eyes of the fans.